Barefoot Gen: - A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima
This harrowing story of Hiroshima was one of the original Japanese manga series. New and unabridged, this is an all-new translation of the author’s first-person experiences of Hiroshima and its aftermath, is a reminder of the suffering war brings to innocent people. Its emotions and experiences speak to children and adults everywhere. Volume one of this ten-part series details the events leading up to and immediately following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. (Amazon.com)
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New Society Publishers
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Barefoot Gen, a student's perspective
Barefoot Gen, or, in Japanese, Hadashi no Gen, is a World War II era autobiographical manga series by Japanese author Keiji Nakazawa. Following a young protagonist, Gen, through wartime Japan throughout the period immediately leading up to, and including, the dropping of the atomic bomb, the novel brings to the mainstream a narrative on World War II that is too often missing from the international stage.
Gen Nakazawa, the second youngest of five siblings, belongs to a lower-class family in the mid-size Japanese metropolis of Hiroshima. With a thriving cult of personality that surrounds the Emperor and Japan’s participation in the war, his family is in the minority –– Gen’s father is well-known in the community for speaking out against the war efforts. His advocacy is met with disdain; Gen and his siblings face rampant abuse at the hands of peers and authority alike as retribution for his father’s “shameful” dissidence. Among the only community members that meet the Nakazawa family with sympathy: Mr. Pak. One of thousands of Korean and Chinese forced to immigrate to Japan to perform back-breaking labor in slave-like conditions to support the war effort, Pak is arguably met with more contempt than his “traitor” neighbors. Nakazawa (the author this time, not the character) does a brilliant job at painting the Japanese war effort with a wide brush, making a point to recognize the diversity of perspectives throughout wartime. As a nation whose contributions to the fighting were characterized by kamikaze bombers and a steadfast unwillingness to cede, it can be easy to stumble into the generalized idea that all Japanese were unconditionally pro-war. What about those in Japan who weren’t 100% on board? Nakazawa may not have a conclusive answer, but he is deliberate in paying homage to the question.
Approaching the dropping of the atomic bomb has been a challenge historical writers have wrestled with since … well … since the dropping of the atomic bomb. How does one even begin to grapple with what many would consider one of the most inhumane acts of war in our history? It starts with candor. Nakazawa, through his words and sketches, provides raw, unfiltered depictions of what Hiroshima looked like in the moments following the “A-bomb”. He doesn’t shy away from graphic images of radiation disfigurement, burns, and human suffering. Nor should he. Part of promoting future peace is truly confronting the atrocity and barbarity of the past. Readers should be ready for graphic content in reading Barefoot Gen, but also to be cognizant of the significance of those images, recognizing how we choose to depict or shy away from the dropping of the atomic bomb in our literature alters the way we view the act as a whole.
I’d like to close with an admission of my own bias. I was a bit hesitant to pick up Barefoot Gen because of its format. In a Western context, manga or comic books are predominantly consumed by and cater to younger audiences; it seemed immature to be reading one for a high school class. In Japan, manga doesn’t carry the same connotation, but is the media form of the masses, young and old. Nakazawa was deliberate in his choice of medium: there is no true way to share an authentic message through an unauthentic format. Writing and publishing Barefoot Gen as a text-only novel would have felt wrong, like catering to an audience and a perspective the book wasn’t designed for. At every turn, Barefoot Gen pushed back against what I thought I knew about World War II and Japan as a whole. It should be required reading for every student.
Mengdie Peng Chinese K-6th Grade Cardinal Maida Academy
Cardinal Maida Academy
Barefoot Gen is a Japanese film which adapted from the produce's true life experience surrounding by the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima in last century. The boy whose name is Gen lives in Hiroshima with his whole family, including his parents, his older sister and his younger brother. They were living in war time, that is the War Ⅱ. The other cities in Japan were attacked by USA sometimes, but the city where he lives is unusually peaceful. One day, on his way back home after school, the nuclear booming happened. He got injured but luckily survived. When he hurried to home, he saw so many people died along the road. All of his family members except his mom were buried in the firing collapsed buildings. He and his mom were not able to rescue them but watch them died in the fire. After that he and his mom lived together. His mom gave a birth to a baby a couple days later. Because they did not have enough food either for adults or for the baby, the baby died eventually. Also, Gen and his mom had to suffer the serious effects after the booming. The boy holds a positive attitude towards life all the time and helps his mom and another homeless kid survive after the booming.
It is such a sad movie that I cannot keep myself from crying when I watch it. I was told it is a movie about war and it is sad but I didn’t expect it to be so scary and sad. I always know what the people suffering who live in war area, but I did not know the consequence would be so serious. Although Gen is a brave and optimistic boy, I can still feel the danger of death in their life. The director tried to show us some hope in the movie but as a rational adult, we know what would happen eventually.
I think adults should watch this film to remind themselves not to start a war without consideration. I don’t suggest young kids to watch it because I don't think they can handle with these terrifying scenes.